There’s a tool in preparation that should not be overlooked. Of course there are many aspects of preparation that matter, not least the preparation of the life of the preacher, plus the various aspects of Bible study skills, pastoral awareness and involvement, etc. But there is one tool that many preachers neglect far too much.
Most of us were trained to prepare our messages on paper – study notes, outlines, manuscripts, preaching notes, etc. All of this is good, but don’t miss the obvious. The goal in preaching is not to write a good outline, or write a good manuscript. The goal is to speak a message. So don’t neglect the value of talking through the message.
There is nothing unspiritual about good preparation. But there is something very sensible about it. When you speak through a message you will find that some parts don’t flow as they seemed to on paper. You’ll find that some transitions are clunky, while others are practically absent to the half-listening ear. You’ll find that some sentences are too long, some thoughts are too convoluted, some thought processes are unclear. Every negative discovered in pre-preaching speaking is a good thing for you can strengthen your message.
But then there’ll be positives too. A different way of stating a key point, or phrasing a transition, or even a helpful image or support material that comes to mind as you are listening to yourself speak through the message. Speaking through a message is a great way to break a log jam. Recently I was wrestling with a passage, or actually, with a message. I understood the passage to a certain extent, but was struggling to form the message in any way other than straight information (i.e. tedious sermon alert!) I decided to preach it through, and in doing so was able to reformulate the main idea to be more engaging and memorable. I also came up with another illustrative image that conveyed the sense of the passage much better than what I’d written in my outline.
It may sound simple, but sometimes the best thing you can do is leave your desk and preach through the message as it stands. It will usually improve your message and motivate you to press on in your preparation. Simple? Yes. But definitely a tool of inestimable value.